March 9, 2011
V.I.H.A. Community Report on Cowichan Lodge
Central Vancouver Island residents requiring specialized mental health services
will now be able to access them closer to home. VIHA will be redeveloping wings
A and C of Cowichan Lodge to provide 51 tertiary psychiatric beds for younger
and older adults, services that were not available locally in the past.
Planning for this $8.5 million project is well underway. Construction is
expected to begin mid 2011, with opening scheduled for mid 2012. When completed,
the facility is expected to employ 60 health care providers and have a $7
million per year operating budget.
At the same time, work continues in partnership with the Cowichan Communities
Health Network (CCHN) regarding the unassigned (B and D) wings of Cowichan
Lodge. The VIHA Cowichan Lodge Redevelopment Committee has met three times. The
Committee is made up of VIHA representatives from Primary Health Care, Mental
Health and Addictions, Seniors and Spiritual Health, Home and Community Care,
Capital Planning, Facilities, a local nurse practitioner, a Councilor from North
Cowichan, two appointed representatives from the CCHN, as well as
representatives from First Nations, the Seniors’ Health Care Foundation, Queen
of Angels School and Providence Farm. A sub-committee of the VIHA Cowichan Lodge
Redevelopment Committee is examining ideas for the future use of wings B and D.
Options under consideration include seniors’ care, services that support
caregivers, a health centre collective, an integrated health network, a
spiritual area, and/or a diabetes education centre. The sub-committee will
present vetted options to the Cowichan Lodge Redevelopment Committee and the
Cowichan Communities Health Network Planning Group for consideration and
recommendation. One or two options will be forwarded to VIHA Capital Planning
for feasibility. To date, the process is ongoing and no decisions have been made
around uses for ‘unassigned’ areas of Cowichan Lodge.
FAIR HEALTH FUNDING FOR COWICHAN NOW! is a coalition of organizations and
individuals coming together to address historic health funding inequities in the
In June, this group sent a letter to BC Premier Gordon Campbell pointing out
serious problems with health care delivery in our local communities. The demands
to the Premier called for:
- Health funding disparities in the Cowichan Valley to be rectified starting
- A meaningful dialogue to be initiated between the Cowichan Valley
community and VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority) in regard to the health
care crisis before final decisions are made
- Cowichan Lodge to remain in operation as a residential care facility and
current residents to be allowed to remain at the Lodge while discussions are
Copies of the letter were widely distributed, including a copy to the new
Minister of Health Services, Kevin Falcon. Falcon was recently quoted in
the Vancouver Sun as stating his support for private health care in the
province. Despite a clause in the Canada Health Act which forbids a
two-tier (public and private) system, the Minister said he did not object to
"people using their own money" for private health care. He further stated
"I think choice (in health care) is a good thing". Falcon later called the
reporter back to "clarify" his statements, saying he had only been on the job
for one week.
Cowichan Lodge will stay open, vows James!
Wednesday, April 29th
During a visit to Cowichan Lodge, NDP Leader Carole James pledged that an NDP
government will keep the Lodge open for seniors care.
The Opposition Leader stated: “Our
platform includes re-opening 300 long-term care beds in the first six months.
Cowichan Lodge will be among those beds”.
Flanked by MLA Doug Routley and NDP
candidate Bill Routley, Ms. James noted that many seniors who could be at
facilities like the Cowichan Lodge are in hospital beds. She further stated
that it was time to “stop moving seniors out of their homes without adequate
warning or consultation”.
Joan Hayden-Luck, President of the
Cowichan Lodge Auxiliary, said she was very happy with the announcement .
Calling the Lodge “a beautiful place”, she stated she was “looking forward to
continuing to serve the Lodge residents”.
The message was delivered in a grassy
area adjacent to Lodge property with a large crowd of Cowichan Lodge supporters
cheering the announcement.
The REAL Cost of Closing Cowichan
Lodge Theme of Duncan Meeting
More than 120 people attended the
public meeting held April 4th at Duncan United Church. Under the
theme The REAL Cost of Closing Cowichan Lodge, the meeting began
with an overview of previous meetings and an update on the current situation at
There are 11 residents left at the
Lodge, down from the original 94. There have been 2 recent deaths at Cowichan
Lodge, with both families expressing gratitude that their loved ones were able
to spend their last days in familiar surroundings. Staff has been reduced. There
is no longer a receptionist and doors are locked at 5:00 PM with families given
a security code.
In the community, all residential beds
are full. Cowichan District Hospital (CDH) is overcrowded and has had as many as
15 in the Emergency Room waiting for ward beds. We are approaching 20 patients
in CDH who will need residential care beds. A number of surgeries have been
cancelled, including day procedures like cataracts as the ambulatory care unit
is used as a holding area for admitted patients. In other communities with bed
shortages, closed residential care beds have been reopened, a move VIHA has
refused to follow in our area.
Small groups were then formed to discuss
the social, economic, health and human costs of closing the Lodge. Along with
the concerns expressed were numerous suggestions on keeping the Lodge open. It
has become apparent that we need Cowichan Lodge now more than ever. As Joanna
Neilson, of “Concerned Citizens for Cowichan Lodge” has stated: “Cowichan Lodge
has served Cowichan Seniors and their families for 27 years. It remains a
valuable and needed public community resource and we want it to continue serving
the people of our valley for years to come. We are still determined to find a
solution to this unacceptable decision, a solution that is a win-win-win – for
the Vancouver Island Health Authority, for our community, and most importantly,
for our seniors.”
AUXILIARY TEA CELEBRATES 28
YEARS OF SERVICE
April 19th, the
Cowichan Lodge Auxiliary held a very successful tea on Sunday afternoon,
for current and former residents and families. The Auxiliary also extended an
open invitation to the people of the Valley who have supported keeping the Lodge
open. This lead to a full house as people toured the beautiful gardens and then
enjoyed refreshments in the Lounge area.
First time visitors, mingling with Lodge
residents and their families, were given a first-hand opportunity to see the
real condition of the lodge. After being subjected to months of inaccurate
information on the Lodge condition from V.I.H.A., many expressed surprise at how
well maintained the Lodge is.
Auxiliary President Joan Hayden-Luck
welcomed everyone and gave a brief history of the Cowichan Lodge Auxiliary,
which began 28 years ago with the opening of the Lodge. During that time, the
volunteers have contributed more than 100,000 hours to bring comfort and
well-being to those living and working at the Lodge. As well, funds exceeding
$430,000 in items and services have been contributed to Cowichan Lodge by the
Joan introduced Edith Martin and
Shirley Garriock ,two members who have been on the Auxiliary since the Lodge
opened in 1981.
Everyone, including the
residents, seemed to enjoy the tea. Many left with an even stronger belief that
Cowichan Lodge must remain open for the good of our community. Here’s to 28
more years of exemplary service from our Auxiliary!
April 18th, at a
meeting sponsored by the Cowichan Branch of the Canadian Mental Health
Association, V.I.H.A.’s and the Minister’s proposal to turn the Lodge into some
form of mental health facility met with some criticism. It was noted that little
consultation from V.I.H.A. has occurred and that increased funding for mental
health was required, not a stop-gap measure involving Cowichan Lodge.
HEALTH MINISTER VISITS VALLEY,
DUCKS COWICHAN LODGE SUPPORTERS
Duncan, Tuesday April 7th
B.C. Health Minister George Abbott made a visit to Cowichan District Hospital (CDH)
to announce funding for an enlarged pharmacy at CDH and to announce that he
wished to begin a public consultation on the future of Cowichan Lodge. However,
a group of Cowichan Lodge supporters who were not allowed to meet or even see
the minister, except glimpses through a closed window, felt left out of any
Hiding behind security guards, the
Minister never did come to the microphone dais, complete with V.I.H.A. logo
backdrop. Instead, he made the announcement in the hospital board room. Even
some members of the press were initially excluded from the meeting. They were
later escorted into the boardroom by security guards. The Minister then
apologized for their exclusion. Mr. Abbott did not apologize to the Cowichan
Lodge supporters, who continued their silent protest outside.
Lodge supporter Joanna Neilson called
Abbott’s conduct “extremely disrespectful”, noting that several of the people
involved in the silent vigil were seniors.
Duncan, Saturday March 7th The second of a series of community
meetings to discuss Cowichan Lodge was held. A group of residents gathered at
the Moose Lodge to hear presentations and updates of the current status of the
Duncan seniors home, slated for closure by Vancouver Island Health Authority
(VIHA) this August.
The meeting was sponsored by the B.C. Health Coalition, and chaired by Am
Joanna Neilson of Concerned Citizens for Cowichan Lodge noted her group has
requested local government, including Cowichan Tribes, to request that VIHA meet
with local stakeholders to discuss the community concern for the future of the
Lodge. She noted that staff cut-backs, which appear to contravene Community Care
and Assisted Living Appeal Board orders, have meant that the Lodge will be
locked after 5PM each day. Families can only gain access by punching in a
Local psychiatrist Dr. Robin Routledge talked about disparities in funding
between our area and Nanaimo and Victoria, pointing out that for every $1 that
comes to the Cowichan area for mental health services, about $1.50 goes to these
other areas. He pointed out that over the years he has visited Cowichan Lodge in
a professional capacity “hundreds of times” and noted some seniors who require
full-time monitoring but remain mobile and curious have to wait at CDH for
appropriate residential beds. They must be monitored using a substantial amount
of staff and money to keep them safe in hospital.
Gretchen Hartley of Cowichan Valley Hospice Society spoke of the need for
more palliative beds to provide a supportive, compassionate, dignified
end-of-life experience for citizens and their families. Mary Ann Deacon, a
Hospice volunteer, also noted a need for privacy for families during that time,
rather than in an inappropriate four-bed hospital ward. Cowichan Lodge used to
provide such an environment for such cases, and could be used for that purpose
The same message came from representatives from Cowichan Valley Caregivers
Support Society. “Respite care is a community concern”, said Garth
Harvey. Home caregivers of the seriously disabled and terminally ill are usually
family members and volunteers. They need a break from the stresses of care
giving responsibilities. "Often respite patients are now sent out of the Valley as far away as
Victoria, a very stressful situation.” Said Mr. Harvey.
Brenda Hill of the Mid-island Health Coalition, and a registered nurse, spoke
of the “back-up” in hospital because of waiting lists at area seniors care
homes.” All our residential care beds are full with a wait list now. Due to the
closure of Cowichan Lodge, we now have 65 new residential care beds instead of
the 160 that were promised.” said Ms. Hill. “Nurses see no VIHA plan to improve
the situation in the future. Cowichan Lodge, with it’s private rooms and
bathrooms could alleviate much of this overload of the system.” Recently,
Cowichan District Hospital had 118 patients vying for 95 beds.
During the question period, Cowichan Valley Liberal candidate Cathy Basskin
stated “The way the Cowichan Lodge closure was handled was inexcusable.” She
further said “We need to know the future of Cowichan Lodge”.
The NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, Bill Routley, spoke on the future of
the Lodge, saying that it must be kept open as a seniors care home. He pledged
to work toward that goal if he becomes the area MLA in May.
Moderator Am Johal suggested an independent seniors advocate should be
established to protect the often overlooked interests of our older community
members. It was noted the BC Ombudsman recently toured the Lodge and talked with
residents and their families. Her report is expected soon.
A further meeting regarding Cowichan Lodge will be held in April. Details will
COWICHAN LODGE: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE was the topic of a public
meeting held at Duncan United Church on Saturday, February 7th. Sponsored by the
United Church Social Justice and Outreach Team and the Concerned
Citizens for Cowichan Lodge (CCCL). Among attendees were MP Jean
Crowder, MLA Doug Routley and Mayor Tom Walker of North Cowichan.
A standing room only crowd heard presentations on the cooperative model
for health care. Tom Shandel's informative 2001 film documentary "Social
Co-ops and Social Care" looked at how co-ops operate in the health care
field in Canada, the U.S. and Italy. The latter has 6,000 such co-ops with
Rev. Duncan Barwise opened the meeting, welcoming everyone and reading
comments from meeting organizer Ronnie Phipps, who was unable to attend.
Johanna Neilson of CCCL then spoke, giving the history and updates on
Carol Murray of The BC Co-operative
Association provided an overview of Co-ops, noting that 100 health
care co-operatives currently operate in Canada, with two on the Island, in
Victoria and Alberni. Ms. Murray noted that turning The Lodge into a
co-operative care facility would be an option between the public and private
health care models. She noted a co-operative can be cost effective and can meet
Brenda Hill, a member of the BC Nurses Union, pointed out that the
Cowichan District Hospital (CDH) is at "critical levels," with
overcrowded conditions. She noted that Cowichan Lodge has 80 private rooms
available which could be used as transitional care and respite care to relieve
these unsatisfactory conditions at CDH.
Moderator Al Sebring then asked for a show of hands from audience members
who would like to see further investigation into turning Cowichan Lodged into a
Co-operative facility. Several in the audience indicated an interest in
pursuing this option.
A petition was circulated reading:
Citizens of the Cowichan Valley request that the Board of Directors for the
Municipality of North Cowichan, the City of Duncan, the Cowichan Valley
Regional District and Cowichan Tribes immediately request the Vancouver Island
Health Authority to meet with representatives of all stakeholder groups to
discuss and plan for the maintenance and continued viability of Cowichan
Following the adjournment, organizers expressed delight with the public
response and interest shown at the meeting.
B.C. Ombudsman Kim Carter visited Cowichan Lodge on Thursday, January
22nd, to tour the facility and talk to those affected by the plan to close the
seniors care home. The visit, during which Ms. Carter talked to residents,
family members, volunteers and health care workers, is part of a province-wide
investigation into seniors care.
She was told by a health care worker of overcrowding at Cowichan District
Hospital (CDH), which has led to cancellation of surgeries because acute care
beds are taken up by seniors waiting to go into a care home. It was pointed out
by several speakers that Cowichan Lodge would be the ideal place for these
seniors, even if only for short term stays. More than 80 beds could be made
available at the Lodge. The cost to keep one person for one day in CDH is
$3,055. VIHA refuses to allow admissions to Cowichan Lo9dge even though it is
slated to stay open until August, 2009.
On Friday, January 16th, opposition Leader Carole James was in Duncan
to discuss Cowichan Lodge and other senior's issues with area residents.
Accompanied by MLA Doug Routley and NDP candidate Bill Routley, Ms. James
listened to stories from Lodge family members and health care workers.
Commenting that seniors care will be a priority if the NDP forms government in
May, Ms. James stated that it was important to re-open Cowichan Lodge if it is
not prematurely closed by the provincial government prior to the May election.
Dec. 11th, lodge residents and their families enjoyed a Christmas lunch.
The afternoon included entertainment from the RCMP Choir ( along with
some of their families), Christmas songs on piano, and a couple of excellent
young singers, accompanied by accordion. Everyone agreed it was a fun afternoon.
The staff did a great job, merry Christmas to everyone involved!
The Cowichan Lodge Auxilliary recently donated a specially equipped
custom-built wheelchair to the Lodge. Lodge resident Marion Murphy is using the
wheelchair, worth almost $7,000. Since the Lodge opened, the Auxiliary has made
donations of equipment and services totaling $430,000, resulting in huge savings
for VIHA (and taxpayers!).
Extra Costs Reported by Sunridge Residents
"Sunridge place residents and their families, many of whom fought the
Vancouver Island Health Authority's bid to close-down publicly run Cowichan
Lodge this summer, say they're being hit with $200 - $400 a month in extra drug
costs at the now privately operated facility."